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Mommie Dearest – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

The bounce from month to month for the Paramount Presents series is a lot of fun. It really moves and shakes from different eras, genres, stars and filmmakers. There’s really no bias here at all. Mommie Dearest is getting to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year with a debut on Blu-ray into this collection’s catalog. The chesse-fest classic was released back at the start of June (the 1st actually), but there were some issues/delays/whatever with the replication for it and it appears review copies are now just starting to find their way out their to us writers. Better late than never nonetheless. It features a new 4K transfer, commentary and Filmmaker Focus featurette to go with plenty of legacy bonus features. You can order the film to have a copy for yourself by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows this wonderful review.

Film

In this biographical film, glamorous yet lonely star Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) takes in two orphans, and at first their unconventional family seems happy. But after Joan’s attempts at romantic fulfillment go sour and she is fired from her contract with MGM studios, her callous and abusive behavior towards her daughter Christina (Diana Scarwid) becomes even more pronounced. Christina leaves home and takes her first acting role, only to find her mother’s presence still overshadowing her.

When comes to glorious cinematic misfires, ones that had clear Oscars expectations when they set out to make it tend fall on flat on their face the hardest. Mommie Dearest has all the makings of what a stereotypical easy Academy voter pleaser looks for in a film. A biopic based on one of their own, troubled peoples. A prestige actor transforming into the role. The “dark true story you didn’t know”. Based on a novel. You know all those things. But when it came down to it, Mommie Dearest was so determined to do this, that it wound up cranking everything up to 11.

Leading the charge of that cranking is Faye Dunaway, in a role that she felt changed the course of her career forever. For better or for worse, she’s the entire reason this movie is so entertaining and has found itself a cult status.  We all know the wire hanger scene, which is sort of its apex and pop culture moment, but she is batshit crazy throughout. There’s something wickedly meta and meant to be of an actor with the known history of Faye Dunaway stepping into the shoes of someone like Joan Crawford. You really couldn’t write or cast any more perfectly than it worked out here.

Mommie Dearest is a bit long for a party movie, but with the right group, it can work out. You definitely need to watch it with a drink in hand or an edible ready to kick in to get a full blast of it. Its a midnight movie that can be full of laughs, cheers and a chorus of quoteables as people go through this odd history of one of Hollywood’s legends told in the only kind of way that is fitting to the performer. Surely, not a film for everyone, but if you’re into this fringe entertainment sector of Hollywood, this is one of the more entries from a prestigious place of intention.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Mommie Dearest arrives on this Paramount Presents edition for its 40th anniversary with brand new 4K restoration of the film for its debut on the format. The image has a rather softer lit look to it but still has terrific detail and depth to go along with nice color saturation and crispness. They’ve done a pretty marvelous job in this restoration and fans should feel rather pleased with the results of this transfer.

Depth:  Some really good depth of field, especially in the interiors of Joan’s residence and the movie sets in the film. They feel like really big spaces with good pushback to them. Movements are cinematic and natural.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and near to natural levels. Good shadow, contrast and shading on display in the image with no real issues of information being lost. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong, even though its a lot of whites and regular colors. Some dresses, upholstery and make-up shows some pop in it for the image. While regular, they are bold and well saturated colors for this strong image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent form start to finish of the film. Facial features, textures, make-up lines and such are plenty crisp in close ups and medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, German, French, German

Dynamics: Mommie Dearest comes complete with a 5.1 and a mono track. This one is lead by mainly conversation and dialogue, but the music gets some good power and presence here in the mix as well. Its a pretty nice experience, even though the 5.1 might be a bit much for this movie or that the choice was to rather not overdo it on the surround end of things.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Not a whole lot here to reflect on, but that’s really because the film itself doesn’t offer much. It does adequate work on the score of the film as well as more natural effects like doors closing, things smashing and the like.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This is a pretty front heavy track. The rear channels do provide some decent ambience and once in a while provide a unique contribution or help to establish with something that changed in a camera shot.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

Mommie Dearest  in first pressing, comes with a slip cover that folds open to reveal the original poster art for the film. It also comes with a redeemable digital copy. Aside from the Filmmaker Focus, all other featurettes can be found on the previous DVD release of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By American drag queen Hedda Lettuce
  • By Filmmaker John Waters

Filmmaker Focus: Biographer Justin Bozung on Director Frank Perry (HD, 7:01) – Bozung is the author of a book on director Frank Perry. He gives a bit on the director (“An actor’s director. The actor’s face is the canvas.”) and his work on the film and how it all came about.

The Revival of Joan (SD, 14:15)

Life With Joan (SD, 13:44)

Joan Lives On (SD, 16:05)

Photo Gallery (SD, 2:50)

Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 4:10)

Summary

Mommie Dearest is quite a legendary cult classic that surprisingly has not made the jump to Blu-ray until now. But, having waited, we are better for it, getting a release like this one. The new transfer on the film is quite terrific to go along with a rock solid surround sound track. Extras are in a good abundance with the vintage ones covering pretty much what you’d want. Fans should have no hesitation in deciding to pick up yet another nice Paramount Presents release.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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